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Comerse a Buda: Vida y muerte del pueblo tibetano a manos del Imperio Chino (ODISEAS)

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Como hiciera en Querido Líder , su emblemática obra sobre Corea del norte, la reportera Barbara Demick se adentra de nuevo en la vida cotidiana de otro de los rincones olvidados de nuestro planeta, el Tíbet. Situada por encima de los tres mil metros de altitud, Ngawa sigue siendo uno de los principales focos de resistencia de los tibetanos contra China. Fue allí donde por p Como hiciera en Querido Líder , su emblemática obra sobre Corea del norte, la reportera Barbara Demick se adentra de nuevo en la vida cotidiana de otro de los rincones olvidados de nuestro planeta, el Tíbet. Situada por encima de los tres mil metros de altitud, Ngawa sigue siendo uno de los principales focos de resistencia de los tibetanos contra China. Fue allí donde por primera vez se encontraron los tibetanos con los chinos comunistas que huían de la guerra civil. Hambrientos y agotados, los soldados engullían las figuras de Buda hechas con harina y mantequilla que decoraban los templos y monasterios ante los ojos horrorizados de la población local. Empezaba así una historia de desencuentros que aún perdura. A partir de la vida de una princesa expulsada durante la revolución, un nómada tibetano que acaba radicalizándose, un emprendedor enamorado de una mujer china, un poeta e intelectual voz de la resistencia y una niña obligada desde pequeña a elegir entre su familia y el dinero chino, el libro aborda el dilema al que los tibetanos llevan décadas enfrentándose: resistir o someterse.


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Como hiciera en Querido Líder , su emblemática obra sobre Corea del norte, la reportera Barbara Demick se adentra de nuevo en la vida cotidiana de otro de los rincones olvidados de nuestro planeta, el Tíbet. Situada por encima de los tres mil metros de altitud, Ngawa sigue siendo uno de los principales focos de resistencia de los tibetanos contra China. Fue allí donde por p Como hiciera en Querido Líder , su emblemática obra sobre Corea del norte, la reportera Barbara Demick se adentra de nuevo en la vida cotidiana de otro de los rincones olvidados de nuestro planeta, el Tíbet. Situada por encima de los tres mil metros de altitud, Ngawa sigue siendo uno de los principales focos de resistencia de los tibetanos contra China. Fue allí donde por primera vez se encontraron los tibetanos con los chinos comunistas que huían de la guerra civil. Hambrientos y agotados, los soldados engullían las figuras de Buda hechas con harina y mantequilla que decoraban los templos y monasterios ante los ojos horrorizados de la población local. Empezaba así una historia de desencuentros que aún perdura. A partir de la vida de una princesa expulsada durante la revolución, un nómada tibetano que acaba radicalizándose, un emprendedor enamorado de una mujer china, un poeta e intelectual voz de la resistencia y una niña obligada desde pequeña a elegir entre su familia y el dinero chino, el libro aborda el dilema al que los tibetanos llevan décadas enfrentándose: resistir o someterse.

30 review for Comerse a Buda: Vida y muerte del pueblo tibetano a manos del Imperio Chino (ODISEAS)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenna ❤ ❀ ❤

    Tibet hills and mountains, by abogada samoana. Wikimedia Commons Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town is an up close account of the Tibetan people told through the stories of several individuals. Beginning with a short history of Tibet up until the Chinese invasion in 1950, journalist Barbara Demick then delves into the lives of ordinary Tibetans during the Chinese occupation. What follows is devastating, as we learn how the Chinese took control of Tibetans lives, seeking to wipe out t Tibet hills and mountains, by abogada samoana. Wikimedia Commons Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town is an up close account of the Tibetan people told through the stories of several individuals. Beginning with a short history of Tibet up until the Chinese invasion in 1950, journalist Barbara Demick then delves into the lives of ordinary Tibetans during the Chinese occupation. What follows is devastating, as we learn how the Chinese took control of Tibetans lives, seeking to wipe out their unique culture and religion. Ms. Demick tells the personal stories of several Tibetans. She takes us inside their lives, portraying the richness of Tibetan culture and the indomitable spirit of the Tibetan people. While I found this book semi-interesting, it felt dry at times and repetitive at times. I was intrigued in the beginning, especially reading about the childhood of the princess Gonpo, daughter of a local 'gyalpo', "king" in Tibetan. I initially enjoyed the stories of some of the others too but they all just seemed to meld together after awhile. Chapters begin with photographs of the people and places, and this was perhaps my favourite part of the book. I disliked that many of the pages were devoted to describing self immolation and talking about those who performed this shocking act. It is horrific and it shows just how desperate some Tibetans are for freedom and to have the Dalai Lama return from exile. Important as that is, I think much less could have been written about it. Once mentioned, the author returns to the subject many times. On one hand, I think it is essential to remember these people; on the other, one chapter would have sufficed without further mentioning. For instance, the word "immolation" is used 62 times in the book, not including notes - and there are 275 pages of text, not including the notes and glossary sections. The words "immolate" and "immolator" are each used 19 times. That's a total of 100 for just 275 pages. I do not think it was necessary to discuss this ghastly and most desperate of acts so much. It was disturbing, to say the least. I'm glad I read this book because I learned more about Tibet. However, I was equally glad when it ended. Relieved, actually.

  2. 4 out of 5

    PorshaJo

    Rating 2.5 Oh this one pains me so much. I can't tell you how excited I was to have a new book by Barbara Demick. I read her earlier book on North Korea and really liked it. I begged my library for this and when the copy came in via audio I jumped on it. I will say the rating is based on the star of 'it's OK'. I'll just say this one was probably not for me. Eat the Buddha focuses on the history and lives of the Tibetan people. It really is a heart breaking story. The author focuses on Ngaba, which Rating 2.5 Oh this one pains me so much. I can't tell you how excited I was to have a new book by Barbara Demick. I read her earlier book on North Korea and really liked it. I begged my library for this and when the copy came in via audio I jumped on it. I will say the rating is based on the star of 'it's OK'. I'll just say this one was probably not for me. Eat the Buddha focuses on the history and lives of the Tibetan people. It really is a heart breaking story. The author focuses on Ngaba, which is one of the first places where the Tibetans and the Chinese Communists encountered one another. You hear about the culture, the stories of the people, the history over many, many years. The people are truly amazing and to learn of their culture is fascinating. It's just I found it a bit boring. Now, I will say I listened to it via audio and a book like this is probably best where there is a lot of history, facts, names thrown out, print might work better. The narrator, Cassandra Campbell, is a fabulous narrator. Hence, the bit of a higher rating. Now, why did I find it boring? A book I read awhile ago, Seven Years in Tibet was amazing and I heard about the Tibetan people, their culture, the Dalai Llama (the book is also mentioned in this book) and I really enjoyed that book. Since then, I've been very interested in reading what I can around this area and the history. Perhaps for me, that one is still in my mind and I know I shouldn't compare. I'll just say this one didn't work for me. I will read more from this author in the future.....perhaps I'll just shoot for the print and not compare it to other books.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Casaubon

    TOGETHER WE WILL BUILD A BEAUTIFUL HOME. BEND LOW. LISTEN TO WHAT PEOPLE SAY -Government-sponsored poster Ngaba County in the northern part of Sichuan is in the author's terms the "world capital of self-immolations". In shaky cellphone video, there is footage of those who have set themselves afire, breaking their own religious proscriptions against suicide, often wrapping themselves in thick blankets and swallowing gasoline before so they'd burn completely. About a third are from Ngaba. Ngaba. a t TOGETHER WE WILL BUILD A BEAUTIFUL HOME. BEND LOW. LISTEN TO WHAT PEOPLE SAY -Government-sponsored poster Ngaba County in the northern part of Sichuan is in the author's terms the "world capital of self-immolations". In shaky cellphone video, there is footage of those who have set themselves afire, breaking their own religious proscriptions against suicide, often wrapping themselves in thick blankets and swallowing gasoline before so they'd burn completely. About a third are from Ngaba. Ngaba. a town with 70,000 residents, is small by the standards of China. The first traffic light was installed in the 2010s. Demick, a bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, has made three separate visits, concealing her face to make her interviews. She must resort to this because the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region is almost totally off-limits for foreign journalists, but visiting a majority-Tibetan town in an 'Autonomous Prefecture' in Sichuan is at least possible. Her book became a history of the town and a close examination of the relationships between the Chinese Communist Party and Tibet. The first encounter was under extreme and difficult circumstances. In the early 1930s, the Communist forces were on the run from the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek. The Communists were driven nearly to starvation. They boiled and ate the skin off drums. They ate the statues of offering to the Buddha, some made of wax and butter. This act of total sacrilege was the start of a volatile and distrustful relationship. What stops this book from being just another story, just another repeating of the bloody catalog of oppression is the detail in the memories of those Tibetans Demick interviews. One elderly woman remembers seeing a Chinese car for the first time when she was a young girl. She thought it was an animal and tried to feed it grass. There were some times of cautious trust and opening up, but these are interrupted by periods of intense suffering and terror. Those who self-immolate today were not the first to protest against Chinese rule. In 1958 - a year so bad it is simply referred to as '58' in Tibetan or 'the time when earth and sky changed places', the nomads were forced into cooperative living and their herds of animals were confiscated. This was part of the vast failed experiment in industrialization known as the Great Leap Forward. The more nomadic Tibetans were wholly dependent on those animals for everything, and so they were forced into total poverty. Many thousands died. Ngaba today is removed somewhat from that in the past - the streets are cleaner, there are some amenities. It looks cleaner and more prosperous than its neighbors. Perhaps some of the local party officials had tried to invest in it as an offset to local grievances. Images of the Dalai Lama are prohibited - the author had a Lonely Planet Book confiscated because of it. Monasteries that were demolished have been rebuilt, but they're under heavy surveillance. One Tibetan businessman laments that he's wealthier now but he's still not free. When Demick speaks to the locals, their demands seem almost modest - passports for external travel, and more Tibetan-language education. But given the crushing treatment to other groups in recent years, and state policy of enforced control, that seems unlikely. The Party Secretary of Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo from 2016 onwards was previously Party Secretary of Tibet. Demick says the level of terror for the Tibetans here echoes North Korea, and she can get away with saying this as she's interviewed enough North Koreans to write a book on it. This is a heartbreaking story; the Tibetans now seem overlooked by the rest of the world, while the party-state would surveil their every word and thought.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    In Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town, Barbara Demick writes of Tibetan and Chinese history. Working as a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, she moved in 2007 to Beijing. She lived in China for seven years. She focuses on Tibetans living in Ngaba, situated at an altitude of 11,000 feet in the northwestern part of the Sichuan Province. This province, as well as the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan, lie east of the Tibet Autonomous Region. They today comprise the In Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town, Barbara Demick writes of Tibetan and Chinese history. Working as a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, she moved in 2007 to Beijing. She lived in China for seven years. She focuses on Tibetans living in Ngaba, situated at an altitude of 11,000 feet in the northwestern part of the Sichuan Province. This province, as well as the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan, lie east of the Tibet Autonomous Region. They today comprise the heartland of Tibet; more Tibetans living in these provinces than in the Autonomous Region. Ngaba was one of the places where Tibetans and the Chinese Communists first met—this being at the time of the Communists’ Long March 1934-1935. The book’s title refers to the Communist marchers’ consumption of the tasty barley statues, votive offerings found in Tibetan temples. The marchers were hungry; on licking them, they were discovered to be sweet. Demick made three trips to Ngaba—in 2013, 2014 and 2015. She has interviewed Tibetans from Ngaba and other nearby towns. The interviewees are from different walks of life—a princess, the son of a general who came to fight for the Red Guards, an intellectual, a black marketeer turned successful entrepreneur, a son born to a disabled single mother and several individuals taking part in the 2008 stand-off against Chinese authorities. The interviewees are born in the 1950s and following decades. Through their lives, Tibetan history is made meaningful to us. Through their lives we learn of Tibetan traditions, customs and beliefs, for example the clothes worn, the hair styles for different ages, food eaten, weddings and sky burials. Demick has also spoken with the 14th Dalai Lama, the current Dalai Lama, who escaped to India in 1959.The Tibetan government-in-exile operates from Dharamsala, India. In 2020 more than 160,000 Tibetans lived in India. The all-pervading surveillance (closed circuit cameras and the monitoring of emails and chats) and repressive measures directed against Tibetans in China has made life there intolerable for many. What do they request? The freedom to speak their own language, to live according to the traditions of their culture and to follow the Buddhist religion. In the China of today, Tibetans, along with other minority groups, have a lower standard of living than the Han Chinese. The author presents Tibetan life with the events of Chinese history as a backdrop. The Long March of 1934-1935, followed by the Great Leap Forward beginning in 1958 and leading to famine, the Cultural Revolution 1966-1976, the liberalization of the 1980s, followed then by a period of increased repression and Tibetan self-immolations beginning in 2009 are the backdrop events on which the interviewees lives are projected. The approach is effective. The strength of the book lies in its clarity and balance. Numerous sources have been consulted in an effort to corroborate the truth of individual statements. An author’s note at the book’s end sites the sources used, chapter by chapter. Cassandra Campbell narrates the audiobook. Her voice is clear and easy to follow. You do hear in her voice a disdain for the injustices directed toward the Tibetan people. This is not necessary, but one can hardly say that the attitude is wrong. The narration I have given four stars. I highly recommend this book to all interested in Tibetan and Chinese history as well as current developments. This is definitely as good as Demick’s earlier book on North Korea. Demick writes books of non-fiction you do not want to put down. ********************** *Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea 4 stars *Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town 4 stars *Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet by Xinran 5 stars *Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer 3 tars *Sky Train: Tibetan Women on the Edge of History by Canyon Sam TBR

  5. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    (Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Through interviews with various Tibetans from in and around the town of Ngaba on the eastern reaches of the Tibetan Plateau, Barbara Demick is able to provide a multi-layered look into a region that has long been obscured by both an official Chinese state media system focused on projecting a global image of national harmony and Orientalizing westerners who imagine a land that is not much more beyond religious mysticism (Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Through interviews with various Tibetans from in and around the town of Ngaba on the eastern reaches of the Tibetan Plateau, Barbara Demick is able to provide a multi-layered look into a region that has long been obscured by both an official Chinese state media system focused on projecting a global image of national harmony and Orientalizing westerners who imagine a land that is not much more beyond religious mysticism and monks. First of all, said interviews provide a detailed dive into the many changes and upheavals that the town of Ngaba and its surrounding environs has experienced over the last several decades. This regional history, in turn, serves as a microcosm for the history of greater Tibet, which the author takes care to cover specifically when necessary. Along with all of the historical coverage leading up through to the current times, all of the interviewed individuals collectively reveal just how much being a Tibetan in the present-day People’s Republic means enduring a conflicted existence, where they increasingly feel like they can either partake in the development and rising standard of living enjoyed by most citizens of China, be a distinct people who can openly embrace their culture and faith, but not both. Demick’s work is as informative as it is eye-opening. For all those who wish to know what the present day is like for the ever-pressured Tibetan people, I cannot possibly recommend this book enough.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jill Dobbe

    An exceptionally well-written book that portrays the ideals of Tibetan culture and what Tibetans did to survive under Chinese rule in a way that was honorable, insightful and genuine. I was drawn to this book as a result of visiting Dharamsala, India, in 2010. While there I learned about Tibetans in exile. I visited the home of the Dalai Llama and the beautiful Buddhist monasteries. Noted the many storefronts displaying FREE TIBET banners. I even marched in a silent vigil in support of the Tibeta An exceptionally well-written book that portrays the ideals of Tibetan culture and what Tibetans did to survive under Chinese rule in a way that was honorable, insightful and genuine. I was drawn to this book as a result of visiting Dharamsala, India, in 2010. While there I learned about Tibetans in exile. I visited the home of the Dalai Llama and the beautiful Buddhist monasteries. Noted the many storefronts displaying FREE TIBET banners. I even marched in a silent vigil in support of the Tibetan people. Eat the Buddha gives a thorough and interesting account of the history of China overtaking Tibet, the powerlessness of the Tibetans against the Chinese, the lack of freedom they still suffer today, and the Chinese suppression of the Dalai Llama and Buddhist religion. I especially found Demick's individual accounts of notable Tibetans to be honorable and written with compassion. She detailed how they suffered through abuse, poverty, hunger and loss of their families. Tibetans were jailed for the smallest infractions and Tibetan youth resorted to self-immolation as a way to show their religious devotion and their sacrifice for democracy. A mesmerizing book that enthralls the readers and gives them a look into a noble and self-sacrificing culture. I was brought back to all I had experienced while in Dharamsala. Through the author's writing, I couldn't help but feel the beauty, compassion and peacefulness of the Tibetan and Buddhist culture that I witnessed all those years ago. Thank you Barbara Demick for taking me back there and helping me understand the Tibetan culture even more. Thank you to Netgalley and publisher for the opportunity to read and review Eat the Buddha.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Every few years Barbara Demick comes out with one of these books, and I was really looking forward to this one. Somehow though, now that I think about it, there was something about this one that left me a bit hollow. It's a fascinating subject but it felt too vague and scattered. The majority of the book focuses on the town of Ngaba and some of its inhabitants, but I wanted more details about the culture and Tibet as a whole. Things kept being alluded to that left me wanting, like "The Uighurs h Every few years Barbara Demick comes out with one of these books, and I was really looking forward to this one. Somehow though, now that I think about it, there was something about this one that left me a bit hollow. It's a fascinating subject but it felt too vague and scattered. The majority of the book focuses on the town of Ngaba and some of its inhabitants, but I wanted more details about the culture and Tibet as a whole. Things kept being alluded to that left me wanting, like "The Uighurs have it even worse than the Tibetans." Really? Tell me more. But she didn't. This isn't a comprehensive history of Tibet, Tibet/China politics, or Tibetan culture. I should have known that based on Demick's other books which tend to focus on a few people and follow their journey. Maybe the difference is that I already knew quite a lot about North Korean and Balkan history/politics, but my knowledge of Tibet is almost limited to remembering that there's an old movie set in Tibet with Leonardo di Caprio or Brad Pitt or one of those people... After reading Eat the Buddha, Goodreads recommended that I read Mary Poppins. I guess I missed the part in the movie where Julie Andrews lands with her umbrella and self immolates in front of the kids.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    http://www.bookwormblues.net/2020/08/... Back when I was working on my undergraduate degree in nutrition, one of my last classes was called Multicultural Health and Nutrition. I loved this class. Our big semester project was to pick one country in the world, and break down their typical diet and nutrition needs, traditions (food you eat for festivals, etc.), common food-related health problems, and the like. Most of the people in class chose typical regions of the world, like the Middle East, or http://www.bookwormblues.net/2020/08/... Back when I was working on my undergraduate degree in nutrition, one of my last classes was called Multicultural Health and Nutrition. I loved this class. Our big semester project was to pick one country in the world, and break down their typical diet and nutrition needs, traditions (food you eat for festivals, etc.), common food-related health problems, and the like. Most of the people in class chose typical regions of the world, like the Middle East, or India, Mexico and the like. I chose Tibet. Why? I’ve always had a fascination regarding places in the world that I will likely never go to. I like to immerse myself in these areas because they get so little attention or serious consideration by so many in the West. So when I saw that Barbara Demick, who wrote one of my favorite books ever, Nothing to Envy, was turning her sights to Tibet, I was there with bells on. Demick focuses on one specific region of the Tibetan Plateau, specifically Ngaba, a town that has been a focal point for a lot of recent upheavals, protests of which, more recently, have been known for monks self-immolating, for example. Ngaba has been cut off from the world for longer than just about any other area of Tibet, and the Chinese officials have been very careful about what information gets out about any of this. For example, I had no idea that some of the monks who lit themselves on fire actually survived, and are now living in hospitals in terrible condition, with amputated limbs and the like, and brought out to march out some party lines for people when necessary. "There’s a saying that when there is a fire in Lhasa, the smoke rises in Ngaba." Eat the Buddha starts out in the 1950’s, with a princess, right around the time when Mao was annexing the Tibetan Plateau. Through a series of interviews, Demick weaves together the stories of people who lived in this region when things were happening, like the Cultural Revolution, failed farming campaigns (the Chinese didn’t quite understand that not everything grows at high elevation with a very short summer so there was a lot of starvation). Some of the people interviewed didn’t end up in Tibet. The aforementioned princess, for example, ended up in China, with a poor class background, and then worked as forced labor for several years after a whole bunch of “reeducation” campaigns, which were horrible, abusive, and death was a common result of them. "The Communist Party had identified feudalism and imperialism as the greatest evils of society. Their dilemma was how to destroy feudalism without becoming imperialists themselves; they couldn’t simply force “reforms” on the Tibetans. In order to live up to their own lofty propaganda, they needed the Tibetans to carry out reforms voluntarily, joyfully. To convince them, they dispatched young Chinese recruits, some of them still in high school, to spread the word." Demick moves throughhistory smoothly, often weaving in custom, religious belief, and lore as she goes. She also does a great job at examining the larger, more sprawling Tibetan history which is, perhaps, incredibly misunderstood by the wider world. We tend to see Tibetans through the Dalai Lama, a man known for compassion and promotion of peace. I wasn’t aware of the long sprawl of warring tribes, and kings, tribal battles, even the time when a Tibetan king rose up, and brought an army down on China, overtaking a city, which is a deed that is still spoken about with reverence all these hundreds and hundreds of years later. The book is broken up into spans of time, which helps readers follow what’s going on. It also helps to understand how previous policies and events were used as the backdrop for how things changed and what happened later. How the failed Cultural Revolution led to a time of tolerance, and how that led to a time of upheaval again. Everyone seemed to have an idea of how to deal with Tibetans, while the Tibetans themselves were largely shunted off to the side, ignored, and/or treated terribly. The slow wasting away of their cultural heritage left a generation of Tibetans who cannot read or write their own tongue. Religious history, which has been the backbone of their culture, is regarded as sacred to the older generation, and laughed off by the younger, who have been inundated by Chinese anti-religious propaganda regarding the “Dalai Clique.” "Tibetans of this generation refer to this period simply as ngabgay—’58. Like 9/11, it is shorthand for a catastrophe so overwhelming that words cannot express it, only the number. But there are some evocative figures of speech. Some will call it dhulok, a word that roughly translates as the “collapse of time,” or, hauntingly, “when the sky and earth changed places.” It reminded me, in some ways, of some things I’ve read about Russia, specifically regarding Russia’s push to annex areas like Ukraine, and even Georgia, where the culture was slowly bled out of the people. Stalin, for example, got really upset when he was in seminary school because he wasn’t allowed to speak, read, or write Georgian, his native language. It was against the law. Before that, there had been a tug-and-pull between Russia and Ukraine, where writing and language was likewise made illegal, a criminal act to partake in. This slow bleeding of culture is not new to our world, but books like this, where the slow degradation of the language and culture of a people, and the examination of the price of that, is a really stark reminder about how important words are, and how foundational culture can be, and when it’s gone, or starts bleeding away, just how impacted people are. In modern days, the history of Tibet has, if anything, gotten more complicated. In my own research after reading this book, I have noticed a huge push from Chinese tourism companies to get tourists into the Tibetan Autonomous Region, and many people have answered the call. This leads to things like sacred rights, traditions, and the like being boiled down into something you can sell at a gift shop. It has increased revenue to those in the right places, and brought more awareness to the region, but the flow of information both into and out of the area is still very constricted and controlled, and there seems to be quite a dramatic wealth gap, and there’s still a generation of Tibetans who are becoming strangers to themselves. Furthermore, around the time of the Summer Olympics in Beijing, there were absolutely incredible uprisings in Tibet, which started out peacefully, in the hopes that the eyes of the world on China pre-Olympics would keep the government from cracking down on any peaceful protests. Monks organized themselves into groups, with the hopes of raising awareness to the plight of the Tibetan people. It didn’t quite work out the way anyone wanted it to, and a wave of self-immolating monks and nuns followed in quick succession. There was violence, and a lot of blood and death and pain. Ngaba was a great place to focus this book, as it seems to be one area where all the roads seem to connect in a fashion that allowed Demick to write a book that gives a pretty detailed, good overview of what has happened, and is currently happening in Tibet. This book made my heart hurt. On the other hand, it opened my eyes to just how misunderstood this region of the world is, and just the kinds of struggles that happen day in, and day out, when you are under this kind of pressure to change, transform, become other than what you are. There are no easy answers to any of the situations presented to readers here, and some of them will make you tear up, and hit you pretty hard, but it’s books like this that, I think, are so important. There’s an entire world out there going through things that I cannot fathom. Unless books like this continue to be written, and the authors who dare to push the boundaries dare to keep pushing them, people, like those interviewed in this book, will remain silent, voiceless victims. Demick, in Eat the Buddha, gave an intimate voice and an outlet to a struggle that the world really needs to know more about. Masterful and important, defying boundaries imposed by governments, and unafraid to try to understand a point of view that has spent years upon years being repressed and silenced, this book rivals Nothing to Envy in every possible respect. Read it. Now. 5/5 stars

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    This is an excellent work of journalistic nonfiction about life in Tibet, following the lives of eight people the author interviewed and supplemented by her research and travel in the region. I loved Demick’s previous work, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, and accepted before I began that no other book would quite match up to that: not only because North Korea is such a bizarre and fascinating place, but because that was the book that convinced me to start reading nonfiction, and This is an excellent work of journalistic nonfiction about life in Tibet, following the lives of eight people the author interviewed and supplemented by her research and travel in the region. I loved Demick’s previous work, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, and accepted before I began that no other book would quite match up to that: not only because North Korea is such a bizarre and fascinating place, but because that was the book that convinced me to start reading nonfiction, and now years later with much more experience in the genre, nothing else was going to blow me away in the same way. Nevertheless, this is a very good book, weaving together compelling stories in a clear and readable style that follows the story of Tibet—and in particular the town of Ngaba, located in Sichuan province on the eastern side of the plateau—from about the 1930s to the present. Unlike Nothing to Envy, this book doesn’t follow all of its subjects throughout. It begins with Gonpo, the younger daughter of the last king of the region, at the time of the Chinese invasion, and follows her throughout her life. Gonpo is probably the book’s most prominent “character,” though there’s a 100-page section in which she doesn’t appear at all, and she’s a fascinating and impressive person who endures a lot of hardship and whom most readers will be glad to know. Other prominent figures include Dongtuk, a young monk; Pema, a market trader, and Dechen, the rebellious schoolgirl she takes under her wing; Tsepey, a party boy turned activist; and Delek, who participated in early Tibetan resistance as a boy before going into exile. Two other men—Norbu, an entrepreneur, and Tsegyam, an idealistic teacher—have just a chapter each. Because different people experienced different events, the book drops in and out of people’s lives in telling the story of their hometown. Naturally, the book is full of loss, pain, and government malfeasance; reading about the effects of Chinese occupation on the lives of Tibetans isn’t going to be pretty, but I did learn a lot from it. One thing I did not realize was how much worse things have gotten in the last 10-15 years, with Tibetans virtually prohibited from traveling even within the country, let alone managing to make it abroad, and with foreign governments less friendly to Tibetan refugees as China’s economic power increases. Many Tibetan young people have taken to self-immolation as a form of protest, particularly in Ngaba, and the Chinese government has responded by treating the town like a war zone. An advantage of reading about real people is that nobody’s life is without its high notes, but still, this is a depressing book that leaves the reader with little hope for the future. Nevertheless, it’s well-written, engaging and eye-opening, a look at a place most readers are likely to know little about, written with immediacy and featuring real people that are easy to get invested in. I would definitely recommend to those who are interested.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    The Tibetans tried to get the British to recognize their independence, but ended up having to settle for a deal that gave China the rights of "suzerainty," which had the advantage of being a term that nobody quite understood. And things got worse from there. The Chinese took the Tibetans' yaks, busted up their kingdoms, and razed monasteries. The Dali Lama fled to India. The Chinese mandated that crops should be grown which could not be grown there, in that Mao way of theirs. Some Tibetans starved The Tibetans tried to get the British to recognize their independence, but ended up having to settle for a deal that gave China the rights of "suzerainty," which had the advantage of being a term that nobody quite understood. And things got worse from there. The Chinese took the Tibetans' yaks, busted up their kingdoms, and razed monasteries. The Dali Lama fled to India. The Chinese mandated that crops should be grown which could not be grown there, in that Mao way of theirs. Some Tibetans starved, others were killed outright. Passports went the way of free speech. Infused, instead, were Han Chinese, who took what jobs there were. That's the short version, and a disappointment I'm sure for those who think that no country is as malign as the United States. The author's earlier book on North Korea, Nothing to Envy, I thought was really well done. But this one left me confused. One Tibetan would go through trials and tribulations trying to get across the gorge to Nepal and onward to the Tibetan exile community in India. Another Tibetan decides one afternoon to go to India . . . and just does. The author gets our sympathy aroused about the treatment of the Tibetans by the Chinese. Then she relates the exiled Tibetans who want to go back, now that things are better. And, I was led to believe that the author would tell of the outback of Tibet, the Tibet Autonomous Zone, but her focus instead was on the town of Ngaba. Here's a map of Western China (Tibet): That's a long hike from the Autonomous Zone to Ngaba, across deserts and three major rivers. Not that Ngaba isn't important to the story. That's where, for instance, the majority of self-immolations by monks occur. Here: The Chinese brag that they broke up the feudal system that applied in the Tibetan "kingdoms". And who wants to be a serf? Yet the main protagonist in this book was the daughter of a former king. She is painted here in near-heroic tones. Perhaps it's a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I don't know. Then there was this: Uighurs have it even worse than the Tibetans.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    • EAT THE BUDDHA: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town by Barbara Demick, 2020. The town of Ngaba (Chinese Ngawa) is located in Sichuan province in western China, on the geographic Tibetan plateau, the ascending steps that rise to the majestic Himalayas. Ngaba is home to a majority of ethnic Tibetans, culturally and spiritually linked to their kin in the (further west) Tibet Autonomous Region, that was seized by the PRC in 1950, forcing many of their political and spiritual leaders into exile, most fa • EAT THE BUDDHA: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town by Barbara Demick, 2020. The town of Ngaba (Chinese Ngawa) is located in Sichuan province in western China, on the geographic Tibetan plateau, the ascending steps that rise to the majestic Himalayas. Ngaba is home to a majority of ethnic Tibetans, culturally and spiritually linked to their kin in the (further west) Tibet Autonomous Region, that was seized by the PRC in 1950, forcing many of their political and spiritual leaders into exile, most famously the 14th Dalai Lama, living in India since 1959. It is also Ngaba that was home to at least 42 people who chose to self-immolate in recent years (starting in 2009), among the 150+ Tibetan self-immolations, calling world attention again to the seizure and displacement of Tibetans, the forced exile of the Dalai Lama, and abuses by the PRC. American journalist Barbara Demick focuses her research and her listening ear in Ngaba, sharing numerous stories in EAT THE BUDDHA of Tibetan life in China, in India, and through the decades of Mao, Cultural Revolution, and China's meteoric rise on the world stage in the last few decades. Demick's deep histories follow a handful of Tibetans from different walks of life - a bonafide princess of the Tibetan Mei Kingdom, a model turned activist, a young monk, among many others. Sobering stories, with many "gray areas" as well - Tibetans who like the access to Chinese goods and services, who identify politically as socialists and are fluent / educated in Chinese, but who want their children to learn Tibetan language, and the freedom to travel outside of China - both of these things strictly prohibited by the Chinese government. Demick follows the same structural model here as NOTHING TO ENVY (2009), her deep oral history of North Korean defectors, a book I read earlier this year. What I really appreciated here was the geographic shift away from locus of Lhasa, focusing on Tibetans in other regions and their experiences that were not in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Highly recommended for nonfiction readers, as well as those interested in modern Asian history. . . . #ReadtheWorld21 📍Tibet

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    3.5 rounded up Demick's previous non-fiction offering, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea was a truly memorable read for me. Her excellent reportage shed light on the incredible (in the true sense of the word) lives and experiences of regular people in North Korea that had previously been inaccessible to most of the world, and even those who had visited the country. Even though I read Nothing to Envy over 10 years ago the book has stayed with me, and inspired the topic of my undergrad 3.5 rounded up Demick's previous non-fiction offering, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea was a truly memorable read for me. Her excellent reportage shed light on the incredible (in the true sense of the word) lives and experiences of regular people in North Korea that had previously been inaccessible to most of the world, and even those who had visited the country. Even though I read Nothing to Envy over 10 years ago the book has stayed with me, and inspired the topic of my undergraduate dissertation - immigration policy (or the lack thereof) in China with regard to North Koreans. All this background is to say I was super excited when I saw she had a book about Tibet coming out. Having lived in China for 4 years and never getting around to visiting Tibet (something I still regret over 3 years after returning to the UK), I was keen to learn more about the autonomous region and its people. As many know, Tibet is still a taboo topic in China today, and is something of a sore spot - along with Xinjiang, another autonomous territory on China's northwestern border where religious suppression and violence is getting worse and worse by the day. I'll devour pretty much any book about China, but one by an author who wrote such an impressive book about North Korea? Sign me up. So perhaps I'll start with the negatives: I think the structure of Eat the Buddha was to its detriment. People are introduced with a bit of context and biography and then we don't see them again for a number of chapters. While Demick interviewed and met a lot of different people, a number of them have similarly sad stories, but these lose impact given the similarities and at times the book feels a tiny bit repetitive. For this reason I think it'd benefit from a character list so readers are able to keep the different stories and people straight, and perhaps the book would have benefitted from focusing more closely on fewer people. A tiny, nitpick-y comment, but I'd have loved if a few more photos could have been included too. But let's focus on the positives! This is another incredibly well-researched book, and provides a great introduction to Tibetan history and politics; managing to achieve that fine balance of being comprehensive but accessible. The people Demick interviews have fascinating and shocking stories to tell which are seldom heard. Tibet may not be *quite* as mysterious and inaccessible as North Korea, but it's a fitting follow-up to her previous book, as another suppressed group of people living in a region on the brink of huge change. I found it to be a book better enjoyed when taken one or two chapters at a time, to fully appreciate the quality of the author's reportage and research. So while I found this not quite as unputdownable as Nothing to Envy, I'd still highly recommend this to those who enjoyed well-written and researched non-fiction.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Warriner

    Eat the Buddha by Barbara Demick, released in July of this year, is a compelling, heart-breaking report of the Tibetan struggle over the past several decades, beginning in 1958 with the royal family of Ngaba, most of whom have died under the rule of China's Communist Party. I read Demick's Nothing to Envy (2009) earlier this year and found it very insightful and moving. In Eat the Buddha she applies the same journalistic formula by documenting a massive human rights disaster through the extraordi Eat the Buddha by Barbara Demick, released in July of this year, is a compelling, heart-breaking report of the Tibetan struggle over the past several decades, beginning in 1958 with the royal family of Ngaba, most of whom have died under the rule of China's Communist Party. I read Demick's Nothing to Envy (2009) earlier this year and found it very insightful and moving. In Eat the Buddha she applies the same journalistic formula by documenting a massive human rights disaster through the extraordinary accounts of individuals affected by the tragedy, with a keen focus on mostly everyday people in a particular city. In the former she centered the story around the destitute Chongjin, and in her latest book, Ngaba, “the undisputed world capital of self-immolations," as she describes it. Her storytelling, a sort of novelization of interviews with exiles and refugees, mixed in with history and pieces of the larger picture, is powerful in the way it brings people in these "obscure" places close to us, thereby evoking empathy and hopefully stimulating more action and ultimately change. At the very least, Demick has helped give a big voice to the silenced, and I hope she might one day put her time and talents toward reportage on the Uyghurs and Rohingya as well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily Grace

    There's a saying that when there is a fire in Lhasa, the smoke rises in Ngaba. After having read Nothing to Envy I would have read anything Barbara Demick wrote. It certainly didn't hurt that Eat the Buddha is a topic which I already care deeply about. Eat the Buddha profiles the small Tibetan town of Ngaba on the east of the Tibetan plateau, though the People's Republic of China would tell you it's in the Sichuan Province. Ngaba, though somewhat unknown to Western audiences, has played a There's a saying that when there is a fire in Lhasa, the smoke rises in Ngaba. After having read Nothing to Envy I would have read anything Barbara Demick wrote. It certainly didn't hurt that Eat the Buddha is a topic which I already care deeply about. Eat the Buddha profiles the small Tibetan town of Ngaba on the east of the Tibetan plateau, though the People's Republic of China would tell you it's in the Sichuan Province. Ngaba, though somewhat unknown to Western audiences, has played a big role in the unrest between China and Tibet. Nearly one-third of all the Tibetan self-immolations as protest occurred in this town. Demick interviews and reconstructs the lives of several Tibetans from in and around Ngaba from the 1950's to the present and through their experiences paints a clear and painful history of China's occupation in Tibet. Because of Ngaba's geographic proximity to China, it was on the front lines for decades, constantly being affected by the political maneuverings in China itself. Ngaba was on the route of the Long March, the battle site for fighting factions of the Red Party during the Cultural Revolution, and of course, continues to be deeply affected by the Chinese occupation to this day. All of this has lead to a hot-bed of unrest and approximately 50,000 security personnel now stationed in the town. Like Nothing to Envy, Eat the Buddha is told in the narrative style. I love this style of historical non-fiction, it's readable and treats the interviewees as real people rather than players in a history text. Nonetheless, the author doesn't neglect the history either. For those, like myself, not terribly familiar with the history of Ngaba, Demick does an excellent job of providing the reader with the context that is essential to understanding the current situation in Tibet. Though the books itself mainly starts in the 50's—this is about the earliest you can get and still be able to gather first hand accounts—sometimes the history will go back much farther through the ancestors of the interviewees and the ancient structures in the town. Because of the greater focus on the past at the beginning of the book it was a bit slower to get into the narrative-style story-telling but, personally, I am totally happy to make that trade. As you might expect from phrases like "self-immolation" or even just "Tibet" this book can be pretty heartbreaking. Because of the aging of the Dalai Lama and China's continued strength as a world power, it seems like the spotlight on Tibet has waned in recent years. I think it's incredibly valuable to hear these stories and I thank Barbara Demick for bringing them to us. I hope that this book serves in whatever way it can to bring the plight of Tibetans back to the world's attention. Thank you to Random House for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

  15. 4 out of 5

    BookishDubai

    YAAAAS! Barbara Demick has a new book!!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diane Yannick

    Barbara Demick is an extraordinary researcher and writer. She surreptitiously visits countries that are not accessible to foreigners and learns their stories first hand. Nothing to Envy (5 stars from me) captured my interest and made North Korea understandable. Eat the Buddha did the same thing for Tibet, particularly Ngaba, but in a slightly less engaging way. She took us back so we could understand the history not just the current state of affairs. Mao Zedong's communist troops desecrated thei Barbara Demick is an extraordinary researcher and writer. She surreptitiously visits countries that are not accessible to foreigners and learns their stories first hand. Nothing to Envy (5 stars from me) captured my interest and made North Korea understandable. Eat the Buddha did the same thing for Tibet, particularly Ngaba, but in a slightly less engaging way. She took us back so we could understand the history not just the current state of affairs. Mao Zedong's communist troops desecrated their monasteries which held such symbolic value. To show their utter contempt, they ate their Buddhas which had been made of flour, barley and butter. Then during the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese took their farmland and livestock. How about this for over the top: "In 2007, the State Administration for Religious Affairs issued an order that one needed advance permission from the Chinese government to be reincarnated." "In 2009, a Buddhist monk doused himself in gasoline on the main street of Ngaba calling for the return of the Dalai Lama--Tibet's exiled spiritual leader. Since then 156 Tibetans have set themselves on fire, 3o from Ngaba's Kirti Monastery. The latest was in 2019. They have the 'distinction' of being labeled the World's Self Immolation Capital, an unenviable title for sure. Through the stories of characters like Gonpo, Dongtuk, Norbu and Hua, we experience the daily struggles of simply living. I await your next book Barbara Demick.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    By focusing on the lives of several people from the same community, the author recounts the recent history of Tibet in a narrative fashion that is thoroughly engaging.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    Barbara Demick tells the story of Tibet by telling the stories of the people. While there are descriptions of the life of herders, market vendors and monks in Ngata, most of the profiles are of refugees now living in Dharmanshala, India. The author chose Ngaba (City and region) because it is the place of the first encounter of Tibetans and the Chinese Communists. Passing through Ngaba on the Long March hungry (starving) marchers discovered that Buddhas were made with butter and grain and ate the Barbara Demick tells the story of Tibet by telling the stories of the people. While there are descriptions of the life of herders, market vendors and monks in Ngata, most of the profiles are of refugees now living in Dharmanshala, India. The author chose Ngaba (City and region) because it is the place of the first encounter of Tibetans and the Chinese Communists. Passing through Ngaba on the Long March hungry (starving) marchers discovered that Buddhas were made with butter and grain and ate them, which gives the book its name. Demick also chooses Ngaba because it is the site of the most resistance to Chinese rule as measured by the number of self-immolations in protest. Demick describes the chain of negotiations and compromises that came to a head in 1958 with a invasion that destroyed Ngaba's monasteries, deposed the king, and generally upended centuries of life and custom. The first profile is of Princess Gonpo, who at the age of 7 was taken away with her family. With her father killed and her mother’s whereabouts unknown, Gonpo, like many other Tibetans suffered through manual labor (elsewhere) during Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. You follow her through her eventual marriage, family and career and her life in Darmanshala where the Dalai Lama resides with a government in exile community. Through Demick’s contacts, you see how freedoms for Tibetans in Ngaba freeze, thaw and freeze again. Monks can perform some forms of worship but an abrupt policy change could result in a monastery raid. They are frequent enough that monks are ready to take off their robes and put on blue jeans to flee. People can turn prayer wheels can be stigmatized. There is censored use of the internet, but without notice, it can be shut off entirely throughout the region. Like other minorities, Tibetans are showcased, for instance, the 2008 Olympic dances and costumes. They have some relief from the 1 child policy. There is government investment in Tibetan roads, electrical distribution and schools. Nomads have government provided light weight tents (in sharp contrast to the Great Leap Forward when their herds were confiscated). The book shows the downside to these improvements. There is a steady stream of Chinese emigrants that dominate the markets, take the good government jobs and see that the school curriculum is in Chinese. Nomads have restrictions on their movements. It is difficult for Tibetans to get a passport to travel. The accumulation of the discriminatory policies and life as a minority in one’s own country (even as one’s standard of living is improving) grates on the Tibetans as is the one constant policy: there will be no recognition of the Dalai Lama. Demick devotes the last part of the book to the resulting self-immolations. She describes a few of these, the decision making behind them and the public reaction. The physical and cultural descriptions of Dharamshala are the best I’ve read. There is an outline of its political situation. I wonder how it will survive the eventual loss of the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. (Demick poses the difficulty the re-incarnation requirement will have for both the Tibetans and the Chinese government.) The writing is choppy and not everything is tied together. The profiles are chronological with little introduction to help you relate a revisited person to the earlier reference. Some information seems contradictory. At one point she notes 21 self immolations in the Ngaba area, in another over 100. She describes 4 harrowing escapes to India, a fifth refugee, just stumbles in. This book, while informative, does not meet the standard the author set in Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laine

    Ohhhhh.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Esther Espeland

    I wouldn’t say I was “hooked” reading this but I sure learned a lot about Tibetan history and it’s occupation/repression by the Chinese government

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I learned a TON from reading this book. It will probably be one of, if not THE most important book I read this year. I did not find it boring in the slightest (which is what most of the negative reviews say). However, I personally did not know much about the situation in Tibet except for the absolutely basics. So, I'm not sure if this book would be as useful or captivating for someone with more knowledge than me. I highly recommend this for anyone wanting to learn about this important current is I learned a TON from reading this book. It will probably be one of, if not THE most important book I read this year. I did not find it boring in the slightest (which is what most of the negative reviews say). However, I personally did not know much about the situation in Tibet except for the absolutely basics. So, I'm not sure if this book would be as useful or captivating for someone with more knowledge than me. I highly recommend this for anyone wanting to learn about this important current issue and beautiful culture.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Seigfreid Uy

    i see tibet, i read such a tough book on tibet focusing on their relationship with the chi government through the lens of a small tibetan town known as the "self-immolation capital of the world" took me so much longer than expected due to the numerous side-research i did. although it's such an important read, i found the writing to be so much more in "Nothing to Envy". 4/5 i see tibet, i read such a tough book on tibet focusing on their relationship with the chi government through the lens of a small tibetan town known as the "self-immolation capital of the world" took me so much longer than expected due to the numerous side-research i did. although it's such an important read, i found the writing to be so much more in "Nothing to Envy". 4/5

  23. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Author Barbara Demick tells the oral history of a town in one of the less well-known areas of Tibet, Ngaba. Tibet's government and its spiritual leader, the Dali Lama, have taken refuge in India for decades, and the Tibetan people that remain within China are discriminated against and are kept highly guarded by the Chinese government. Demick interviews and tells the stories of a Tibetan princess, a Tibetan nomad, a Tibetan intellectual, and a Tibetan entrepreneur, among others. The central quest Author Barbara Demick tells the oral history of a town in one of the less well-known areas of Tibet, Ngaba. Tibet's government and its spiritual leader, the Dali Lama, have taken refuge in India for decades, and the Tibetan people that remain within China are discriminated against and are kept highly guarded by the Chinese government. Demick interviews and tells the stories of a Tibetan princess, a Tibetan nomad, a Tibetan intellectual, and a Tibetan entrepreneur, among others. The central question for each of them becomes whether to resist the Chinese or fall into line with them. It's a fascinating story of a people marginalized and persecuted.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jyotsna

    What a brilliant read! I am a huge fan of Barbara Demick now! Exact numbers are hard to come by in China, a country with a penchant for statistics but a political culture that prefers not to publicize them when they present any inconvenient truth. The book talks about the history of the Chinese occupation in Tibet which explores the history of the plateau from the time of The Long March. Maoism and Chinese geopolitics is explained in detail, talking about why the Dalai Lama had to seek exile in What a brilliant read! I am a huge fan of Barbara Demick now! Exact numbers are hard to come by in China, a country with a penchant for statistics but a political culture that prefers not to publicize them when they present any inconvenient truth. The book talks about the history of the Chinese occupation in Tibet which explores the history of the plateau from the time of The Long March. Maoism and Chinese geopolitics is explained in detail, talking about why the Dalai Lama had to seek exile in India. A very informative book about our neighbors, and an important read for sure. Political and historical nonfiction at its best! Read for the Quarterfinals of the Booktube Prize 2021, this one unfortunately did not make it to the Semifinals. Nevertheless, please read. Ranking - 1st (out of 6 books) (For more insight, please watch the video on my YT channel)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jill Dobbe

    An exceptionally written book that portrays the ideals of Tibetan culture and what Tibetans did to survive under Chinese rule in a way that was honorable, insightful and genuine. I was drawn to this book as a result of visiting Dharamsala, India, in 2010. While there I learned about Tibetans in exile. I visited the home of the Dalai Llama and the beautiful Buddhist monasteries. Noted the many storefronts displaying FREE TIBET banners. I even marched in a silent vigil in support of the Tibetan peo An exceptionally written book that portrays the ideals of Tibetan culture and what Tibetans did to survive under Chinese rule in a way that was honorable, insightful and genuine. I was drawn to this book as a result of visiting Dharamsala, India, in 2010. While there I learned about Tibetans in exile. I visited the home of the Dalai Llama and the beautiful Buddhist monasteries. Noted the many storefronts displaying FREE TIBET banners. I even marched in a silent vigil in support of the Tibetan people. Eat the Buddha gives a thorough and interesting account of the history of China overtaking Tibet, the powerlessness of the Tibetans against the Chinese, the lack of freedom they still suffer today, and the Chinese suppression of the Dalai Llama and Buddhist religion. I especially found Demick's individual accounts of notable Tibetans to be honorable and written with compassion. She detailed how they suffered through abuse, poverty, hunger and loss of their families. Tibetans were jailed for the smallest infractions and Tibetan youth resorted to self-immolation as a way to show their religious devotion and their sacrifice for democracy. A mesmerizing book that enthralls the readers and gives them a look into a noble and self-sacrificing culture. I was brought back to all I had experienced while in Dharamsala. Through the author's writing, I couldn't help but feel the beauty, compassion and peacefulness of the Tibetan and Buddhist culture that I witnessed all those years ago. Thank you Barbara Demick for taking me back there and helping me understand the Tibetan culture even more. Thank you to the publishers, Netgalley and author for the opportunity to read and review Eat the Buddha.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kamila Kunda

    I remember when the first Tibetans started setting themselves on fire in 2009. By 2011, when I travelled in Himachal Pradesh in India (whose culture is practically Tibetan), all newspapers wrote about a wave of self-immolations with concern. I discussed this issue with many Indians, supporting the Tibetan cause, but we never came to any conclusions. In “Eat the Buddha. Life and Death in a Tibetan Town”, her newest reportage, Barbara Demick is trying to give some answers to the question why more I remember when the first Tibetans started setting themselves on fire in 2009. By 2011, when I travelled in Himachal Pradesh in India (whose culture is practically Tibetan), all newspapers wrote about a wave of self-immolations with concern. I discussed this issue with many Indians, supporting the Tibetan cause, but we never came to any conclusions. In “Eat the Buddha. Life and Death in a Tibetan Town”, her newest reportage, Barbara Demick is trying to give some answers to the question why more than a third of over 150 self-immolations took place either in Ngaba, a small Tibetan town of just 20,000 citizens in Sichuan, or were done elsewhere but by former monks from Ngaba’s monasteries. Self-immolation is never done for a selfish reason. Suicide is badly seen in Buddhism unless it is the sacrifice of your life in order to save someone else. Boddhisatvas (martyrs) set themselves on fire almost always in protest - as Thích Quảng Đức, Vietnamese monk setting himself on fire in 1963 in Saigon in protest of the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese Roman Catholic government and numerous others after him, for other mainly political reasons. Tibetans have been self-immolating - choosing one of the most painful forms of suicide imaginable - to protest against persecution and eradication of their culture by Han Chinese who started occupying their region in the late 1950s. Demick tells the story of Ngaba through the lives of various citizens, who, in some cases, have been able to observe the demise of Tibetan traditions and values since the 1950s. The portrayal of the city and Tibetans is multi-dimensional and unbiased and there is often mention how the Han Chinese have suffered due to their government’s policies as well. Still, self-immolations are a result of constant humiliation, oppression and life without hope for a better tomorrow. Demick’s sensitivity and empathy, devoid of sentimentalism, makes this book a compelling exposé of how politics tends to destroy lives of ordinary people who just want to be.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Richard Propes

    “I have everything I might possibly want in life, but my freedom.” -a Tibetan businessman for Barbara Demick's "Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town" If you're like most Americans, you've likely spent your life romanticizing the mysterious land of Tibet, a nation long vulnerable to invasion from its neighboring China yet a nation often known more for "Free Tibet" campaigns, passionate Buddhism and disciplined monks, and an idyllic setting that Hollywood seldom represents accurately. “I have everything I might possibly want in life, but my freedom.” -a Tibetan businessman for Barbara Demick's "Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town" If you're like most Americans, you've likely spent your life romanticizing the mysterious land of Tibet, a nation long vulnerable to invasion from its neighboring China yet a nation often known more for "Free Tibet" campaigns, passionate Buddhism and disciplined monks, and an idyllic setting that Hollywood seldom represents accurately. Demick, however, is NOT Hollywood. Currently the Los Angeles Times' bureau chief for Beijing, Demick tells the story of Tibet largely through the lens of Ngaba, a Tibetan town perched 11,000 feet above sea level that sits along a border to China and yet has become one of Tibet's most elusive and difficult to visit locales. Starting, at least briefly, in the 1930's when Mao Zedong's Red Army fled into the Tibetan plateau to escape adversaries in the Chinese Civil War, "Eat the Buddha" takes its name from the Red Army's fight for survival in Ngaba's rugged, elevated terrain by consuming religious statues made of flour and butter. This would become the early days of China's increasingly intrusive and dominating behavior toward its more spiritual and peaceful neighbor, a "relationship" that Demick largely picks up in the 1950's and explores through her three trips to the isolated town from 2013 while interviewing Tibetans in Ngaba along with others living abroad including the Dalai Lama, an exiled princess, and a host of others. Demick's history of Tibet is an often heartbreaking one chronicling decades of Chinese incursions that have resulted in cultural upheaval, economic hardship, and the deaths of an estimated 300,000 Tibetans. Determined to sweep out religion, China destroyed monasteries and often punished those who even dared to mention the Dalai Lama's name. Spanning decades of Tibetan and modern history, "Eat the Buddha" captures its heart-center through the stories Demick brings to life throughout her journey including a princess whose family was wiped out in the Cultural Revolution, a young Tibetan nomad who becomes radicalized in Kirti Monastery, an upwardly mobile entrepreneur who falls in love with a Chinese woman, a poet and intellectual who risks everything for his voice to be heard, and a young Tibetan schoolgirl who is forced at a young age to choose between family and the prosperity offered by Chinese money. Demick weaves engaging tales here, an abundance of history woven into the tapestry of the lives that history impacted and a never-ending commitment to removing the veil of mystery from Tibet in favor of a more honest, reasoned understanding of the land and its people and the devastating impact of China's often brutal domination of the region. There's no question that "Eat the Buddha" offers a largely one-sided perspective, Tibet's voice given tremendous clarity while nary a Chinese voice to be found here. That said, Demick also captures vividly a conflicted Tibet that is far removed from the romanticized Tibet portrayed by Hollywood or even the Tibet so often captured by those who would advocate for its freedom. There's an understanding in Tibet that China brings financial prosperity, technological advancement, and greater opportunities, but there's also an undeniable sense of grief and loss as Tibetans increasingly experience the loss of their spirituality, culture, and way of life. "Eat the Buddha" is often brutal in its portrayal, Ngaba itself having at one point become the center point for a wave of self-immolations that swept through Tibet's Buddhist monks and nuns as perhaps the most extreme form of protest possible. Do they resist the Chinese? Do they join them? Do they adhere to the Dalai Lama's teachings of non-violence and his support of a "middle way?" These issues are thoroughly explored in "Eat the Buddha" and in most ways Demick refuses to offer up anything resembling an easy answer. There are no easy answers here. "Eat the Buddha" is an immersive and atmospheric read, its interior design fosters a sense of antiquated historicity and a feeling, even within the font, that you've gone back into time and into another space. Intellectually satisfying and emotionally resonant, "Eat the Buddha" is a slow read that demands attention to detail and a willingness to embrace both history and humanity. At times, that balance is difficult to achieve as deeply moving stories can be temporarily interrupted by paragraphs or pages of historical background. The closing chapter of "Eat the Buddha," as well, follows a chapter of character closure with what amounts to being historical summary and a methodological overview that feels anti-climactic and simply less satisfying than if Demick had allowed us to reflect upon the characters whose lives have been so deeply impacted by contemporary Tibetan and Chinese history and relations. It feels much like a movie where you believe you're in the closing scene only to have the director keep going toward a less satisfying conclusion. However, these are minor quibbles for a book that is engaging, immersive, and incredibly important. Demick, whose last book "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, has crafted an occasionally shocking, deeply revealing, and immensely touching account of a Tibetan town shatters the facade while reminding the world why we fight to free a Tibet we don't really understand. "Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town" is scheduled for release on July 28th from Random House.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Demelda Penkitty

    In 1950, China claimed sovereignty over Tibet, leading to decades of unrest and resistance, defining the country today. In Eat the Buddha, Barbara Demick chronicles the Tibetan tragedy from Ngaba, a defiant town on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau where dozens of Tibetans have shocked the world since 2009 by immolating themselves. Following the stories of the last princess of the region, of Tibetans who experienced the struggle sessions of Mao's Cultural Revolution, of the recent generatio In 1950, China claimed sovereignty over Tibet, leading to decades of unrest and resistance, defining the country today. In Eat the Buddha, Barbara Demick chronicles the Tibetan tragedy from Ngaba, a defiant town on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau where dozens of Tibetans have shocked the world since 2009 by immolating themselves. Following the stories of the last princess of the region, of Tibetans who experienced the struggle sessions of Mao's Cultural Revolution, of the recent generations of monks and townsfolk experiencing renewed repression, Demick paints a riveting portrait of recent Tibetan history, opening a window onto Tibetan life today, and into the challenges Tibetans face while locked in a struggle for identity against one of the most powerful countries in the world. This is an extraordinarily good book. Barbara Demick is a superb storyteller, melding the personal, the historical and the political seamlessly as she delves into the town's intriguing living legacy of rebellion.  A powerful and compelling read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jee Hooked On Bookz

    When the Communists fled farther west into China (The Long March) to escape the Chinese Civil War, they were lacking of food, and by sheer coincidence found Buddha statues made of flour that tasted sweet, then started consuming them whenever they found any, hence the title ‘Eat the Buddha’. ‘Eat The Buddha’ chronicles the lives and struggles of Tibetans who lived under the ruling of China since 1950, when Mao proclaimed the People Republic of China. This book is the result of thorough research, a When the Communists fled farther west into China (The Long March) to escape the Chinese Civil War, they were lacking of food, and by sheer coincidence found Buddha statues made of flour that tasted sweet, then started consuming them whenever they found any, hence the title ‘Eat the Buddha’. ‘Eat The Buddha’ chronicles the lives and struggles of Tibetans who lived under the ruling of China since 1950, when Mao proclaimed the People Republic of China. This book is the result of thorough research, and the various interviews Demick conducted with Tibetans from a small town called Aba (Ngaba) at the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau, for over 3 years. We start from the year 1958 and end with the present, where some of the interviewees are currently residing in Dharamsala, India, now home of some exiles like Gonpo and Delek, but some of them have moved back to China, hoping to lead an ‘easier’ life than the one they had in India. The book opens to the story of Gonpo, the last princess of mei Kingdom, when her palace was being seized and her entire family was being forced out of their home. Gonpo was only 7 years old then. Her father, the king, died a tragic death while looking for her mother. Gonpo is now living in exile in India and had been separated from her family ever since she left for India in 1989. Now they see each other once or twice a year. In the following chapters, we get to meet other Tibetans like Delek, now a ‘self-styled historian’ whose original research was focused on the events of the 20th century, Dongtuk, a kid born out of wedlock and whose half-brother self-immolated, and Tsegyam, an aspiring poet, who at 19 became a vice principal. Delek, at 9, witnessed his own grandparents being beaten severely; his grandmother’s hair being yanked out and his grandfather being ‘suspended from the ceiling, tangled in ropes.’ Their home filled with smoke, all their literature and Buddhist manuscripts, art pieces and holy books burned to ashes. Dongtuk who, from a young age, knew he wanted to be a monk and loved every moment he spent at Kirti monastry. But in March 2008, Chinese authorities put the monastery under a siege. Everything was blocked, even telephone signals and food supply was cut, as though trying to starve the monks into submission after their demonstrations. And soon, closed-circuit television cameras were installed. Nobody knew more people who had self-immolated than Dongtuk. Living in Dharamsala, India now, Dongtuk has started to keep a diary in the hopes of keeping the Tibetan cause alive through his writing. Tsegyam, while he was working as a teacher, got the opportunity to teach Tibetan reading and writing, which although wasn’t allowed, the authorities weren’t able to monitor either and there weren’t any fixed curriculum. He was accused of counterrevolutionary propaganda for writing messages on prayer flags that express rebellion such as “Free Tibet” “Chinese Out of Tibet” and “Bring Back His Holiness The Dalai Lama”. He was sentenced to jail and was released a year later. Now in India, he was hired as the Dalai Lama’s private secretary. The author also showed us the Tibetans’ lives, cultures and beliefs that made them known for their peace and non-violent nature. We’ll read of their Monlam festival (The Great Prayer Festival); Losar, the Tibetan New Year; their sky burials (an ecological practice of returning a body to nature without digging the land polluting water, or chopping down trees for cremation); their food like tsampa (made of barley or wheat flour) which is their staple, momos and khapse – treats they serve on special occasions like their New Year; their famous butter lamps for their prayers and meditations; their nomadic life and how some are adapting to a more modernized life. It was also so interesting to learn about their education at the monasteries where they also hold their Tibetan monastic debates in their own style. This was such an eye-opening read for me, and at times shocking; it was heartbreaking to know how much the Tibetans had to sacrifice just to live in peace, and their struggles seem endless, so much so that the Dalai Lama asked Elie Wiesel during one of his visits to India, “You wrote about the Jewish people losing a homeland two thousand years ago and how you’re still here. Mine has just lost its homeland, and I know it’s going to be a very long road into exile,” “How did you survive?” ‘Eat the Buddha’ vividly painted the livelihoods of people struggling to find their footing in a country they call home, which keeps robbing them of their identities, freedom and independence, again and again. It was also about how they stood their ground, fought back, rebelled, and self-immolate as a call for the freedom of their people and to bring their Dalai Lama back home. It is, above all, the Tibetans’ story of their long fight to freedom while trying to preserve their culture, beliefs and language. For more reviews, head over to HookedOnBookz.com

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie G.

    These were fascinating stories and Demick is a fantastic storyteller. Sadly, there was no attempt to write with even the barest illusion of impartiality. This was pure propaganda. I lived in China, have spent a good deal of time in cities close to Tibet (though only about 10 days actually in Tibet) and I met Tibetan and Uyghur people who told tales that left me with no doubt that the Chinese government has brutally repressed many ethnic minorities, and have been most brutal with respect to these These were fascinating stories and Demick is a fantastic storyteller. Sadly, there was no attempt to write with even the barest illusion of impartiality. This was pure propaganda. I lived in China, have spent a good deal of time in cities close to Tibet (though only about 10 days actually in Tibet) and I met Tibetan and Uyghur people who told tales that left me with no doubt that the Chinese government has brutally repressed many ethnic minorities, and have been most brutal with respect to these two groups. There is no way to tell this story where the Chinese government does not show itself to be violent and intolerant of difference -- the blood of many drips from their hands. Given that, it is hard to see why Demick chose to gild the lily to make the government look even worse My biggest issue? She writes of Tibet under monarchy as a veritable paradise where people joyfully served their gods-given rulers. That is simply not true. I am sure ordinary Tibetan people see the feudal system through a haze of nostalgia. I am sure that haze is helped along by the fact that the monarchy was followed by the despotic rule and ritual torture of the Communist Party. But that does not change the fact that during the monarchy Tibet was a very bad place for most of its citizens. Those commoners went hungry while their crops were taken by the royals. Those commoners toiled in poverty as the royals lived in relative splendor. Were the serfs loyal to their overlords? I am sure some were. Apart from the horrors perpetrated on Tibetans by the Maoists making the monarchs look like pussycats, this happens with freed slaves all the time. There were plenty of slaves who refused to leave their plantations after the American Civil War. Uncertainty can be scarier than slavery, and generations of seeing yourself through the lens of caste does a number on people. I am not justifying the Chinese government's actions to crush Tibet under its bootheel, nor am I turning a blind eye to the irony of a government built on a foundation of anti-imperialism showing themselves to be the most deadly imperialists of all. I am however saying that it is foolish to ignore the fact that a government based on progeniture (as Tibet's was) is antithetical to freedom and equality, which are supposed to be values we in the West embrace. The Chinese had legitimate reasons to dismantle that government. How it was done, the ongoing oppression of the Tibetan people, the Atheist/Marxist jihad on faith, those are all crimes against humanity -- just tell that story. Still happy I read this, much of it was edifying and fascinating.

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